Independent studio Mi’pu’mi Games brings their story driven game from PC to Nintendo’s hybrid home console, the Nintendo Switch. After seeing that some point and click adventures can find success in the modern era, let’s see how The Lion’s Song holds up!
Release date: July 10th 2018
Approximate size: 323 MB
Genre: Point And Click Adventure
Developed by Mi’pu’mi Games
Published by Mi’pu’mi Games
Review On: Nintendo Switch; Also Available On PC and Mobile
The Lion’s Song puts you into the shoes of different types of artists, with an epilogue to tie it all together with a bow, and each tale offers different experiences, complications, and perceptions. The game is intimately accurate on the feelings one experiences with these situations. With the first chapter coming to mind and hitting close to home, Wilma, who suffers from writer’s block, searches for inspiration everywhere and the solitude one must hide in to concentrate and write is very realistically painted. That terror and frustration, that sense of being lost and overwhelmed with needing to complete the task at hand with a looming deadline vastly approaching, can be seen with Wilma’s actions and with what the game tells you. The other stories also bring these feeling, and more unique ones, to others in those respective fields, such as the painter and the mathematician. What this game does even better is that, whether or not, you can relate or are in those fields doesn’t matter because the plot and subject matter brings you in. It is very successful in putting you in those shoes and looking through those set of eyes.
Whether you’re trying to survive and overcome the bitterness of writer’s block, struggling to capture a person’s essence, or dealing with sexism and discrimination, The Lion’s Song weaves a fantastic tale that will have you analyzing yourself and paying closer attention to the world around you. The narrative is the most important part of this game, it’s where all the emphasis is, and, so, I have to be careful what I say to not spoil the spectacular experience. Those who love a great story with a realistic take on people will enjoy this and feel right at home. Those who never go out of their way to read these stories or those new to gaming will find this, due to it being light in actual gaming, a great introductory game to both.
The most important aspect of video games is, well, the gameplay. Some games offer more than others but, ultimately, it comes down to design and whether or not it’s fun. Point and click games have evolved over the years and have found ways to become either more dynamic or deliver a more narrative-driven experience to separate themselves from others in the genre. Captain Disaster was a throwback to classic point and click adventures and games like the ones crafted by Telltale Games has shown a natural progression of where the series is in modern times. The Lion’s Song is a unique experience unlike the other two games mentioned. In all honesty, The Lion’s Song kind of does itself a disservice with being called a point and click game because it feels more like an interactive visual novel.
There is little in actual gameplay that you’ll be doing. You can click on objects to interact with them but there is no puzzle solving or item hoarding to progress forward. As long as you know where to go and what to do, that’s pretty much it. In situations where a puzzle could have been placed or created, the game avoids that by simply telling you what to do and where to go. The main gameplay element, that shines the brightest, is the ability to make choices. Like other games in the genre, these choices can affect the plot and character relationships. What’s better than playing a game? Being able to craft the experience by your choices. In the end, you’ll get stats on your choices based on what others have made and this increases the desire to replay.
This is the largest and only issue The Lion’s Song has, and it’s the lack of any real gameplay. Even by genre standards, it’s very limiting in what you’ll be clicking and pointing at and it can make a player feel uncommitted to the experience due to the monotony of the repetitiveness. What saves it from feeling like a chore, being a bore, is how powerful and intriguing the narrative is and from the realistic relatability of the cast and characters. That’s why I said it resembles closer to a visual novel. The game does well to cause you to forget about the potential tediousness of the repetitive tasks by having a strong narrative you want to see to its conclusion. In that regard, and as a whole, you know what they were aiming for and they nailed their vision.
Overall, the gameplay is extremely light and limited but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Lion’s Song doesn’t need all the fancy gameplay elements that other games have, it has what it needs. Some games offer too much in terms of gameplay variety that they almost lose themselves and the vision they once had, this game doesn’t have this issue. My only complaint with the gameplay is the lack of a touch screen option. There is nothing wrong with what’s here, I just feel a set of touch controls would have made for a more pleasant experience. Especially on handheld and tabletop modes. The graphics, sound, and story more than make up for the lack of innovation or variety in the gameplay. The price also makes a purchase a no brainer.
Right off the bat, the graphics reminded me of Gameboy era visuals with a Sepia filtering over them. It’s a charming visual choice that helps it stand out in the field usually dominated by photorealistic visuals and 8 to 16-bit recreations. Despite using a simplistic art style, the era it recreates, and the emotions of the characters are accurately displayed. When the characters feel sorrow or heartache, they show it and you feel it. Conveying emotions can be tricky but The Lion’s Song does excellently when drawing the characters and the emotions that are felt. A strong art direction and design will go through the screen go our playing on and gripe you, cause you to feel, and you’ll do a lot of that here. The game also uses its art and storytelling to get you to feel other emotions. Concepts that permeate now, existed in this time as well and watching a woman not being taken seriously as a mathematician can bring you frustration as it brings her sadness.
Scenes are also drawn with this intended effect as well. You may be at a place of luxury in one scene with people dressed in fancy clothing discussing topics and you’ll find yourself intoxicated with the discussions going on and amazed at the riches captured with the simple art style. It could be, perhaps, you’re in a room painting someone and the scenery you are apart of is a reflection of the artist himself and the pictures on the wall are creations of pride, but the papers disheveled upon the table are failures of frustrations. Having a scene in which the only thing on the screen is a struggling writer and a small glimpse of their room as they are tormented with loneliness and the frustration that accompanies the inability to create is one of the most well implemented emotionally engaging scenes for me because I’ve been there, I’ve felt that.
At first glance, people may not give this game a fair judgment, graphically, because of how simplistic this art style they’ve chosen is. I, on the other hand, think this art style was needed to create such a powerful array of emotions. With such a toned-down set of visuals, the spotlight is placed upon the characters and the story elements. It is done so, so, well. From one art to another reviewing a game about artist, I can say that the choices are spectacular, and I respect and love when the development team has done.
The developers have proven in this game that less can be more, in many aspects, but they went all in with the sound department. Upon starting the game and seeing the still images you’d be playing, the game still manages to make this feel like a living, breathing, world. For example, the first scene that involves a train will have the blaring horn sounding as it urges the people to board it before it takes off and the sounds of chirping birds and light gust of winds are also implemented nicely. All to make this feel like a real world, allowing you to easily picture yourself there should you listen to the sounds with your eyes closed. Light drops of water echo in one scene involving a well and weather howls and blows in the background depending on the scene. Sounds effects and audio choices and designs are constructed to add more to this world in only a way it can, and it does well to make up for the little actual gameplay and reserved graphics, the latter of which didn’t bother me in the slightest but may turn off some.
Even more where this game shines is its soundtrack. The team knew exactly what kind of melodies to play depending on the scene at hand and accurately found the appropriate reflection. It’s rare that I make it a point to go and search up a game’s soundtrack to listen to and even rarer that I do it before even seeing a game’s conclusion. The Lion’s Song did both in record time and it’s a wonderful collection of artistic experimentation and creativity I think others will truly appreciate. Sound design, music, and effects are important for a game but the removal of these items, depending on the situation at hand, can also be just as important and powerful. A writer suffering from writer’s block may hear nothing as they desperately rack their brain for any semblance of an idea and, terrifyingly so, the game manages to recreate that in exquisite detail.
It’s no secret I love the audio direction of The Lion’s Song. I think the team absolutely hit a home run with where they decided to go and pulled out the emotions that accurately reflected the ongoing on screen. The lack of voice acting is slightly disappointing because from what has been shown I’m sure they would have nailed that as well and hearing these characters would have brought another layer upon them. Despite that, the sound is strong, and no voice acting doesn’t affect the game negatively. Now, go listen to the soundtrack.
While light on actual gameplay, with not much of actual gaming taking place, The Lion’s Song is a treasured experience that has a compelling story, beautiful graphics, and excellent sound choices. Some touch elements would have been nice, as would some more variety in the gameplay, but the characters are excellently written, and the plot is more adult than other games. I walked into this game not really knowing what to expect and if it wasn’t for me being specifically asked and selected to review this game, I would have missed out on a fantastic experience. That would have been extremely disappointing and I’m grateful that I played and reviewed this game. It’s available for purchase, give it a shot. You will not regret it.